Dean Smith began his long and historic coaching career at the University of North Carolina in 1961, at the tender age of 30, but already with a long history of compassion and inclusion behind him. As a high schooler in rural Kansas in the late 1940s, he pushed his school to integrate the basketball program, which at the time had separate teams for black and white players. He kept that activism up at UNC, where he signed the first African-American player in school history, brought his integrated teams to segregated diners, and basically set an example of decency that helped change the culture of a school, a city, and a region. This was true inclusive leadership.
Smith knew that his role as a leader on campus was about more than winning basketball games (though he won plenty of those). He was setting an example for his players, for the community, and for leaders in the community. As more North Carolina political, business, and social leaders saw how successful his style was, they emulated him, helping to create a more inclusive environment in business and society in the state. He set a template for inclusive leadership, one that now is more important than ever for leaders of any organization.
There are a lot of different leadership styles. A classic one is top-down, something practiced by leaders from Ashurnasirpal II to Lee Iacocca. This is where what the leader says goes. In times of crisis, this style can be effective, but it has its flaws too: top-down leadership doesn’t help grow a new generation of leaders, and it has the potential be inflexible and subject to the whims of leaders who may not always have the best ideas.
Inclusive leadership is a different kind of leadership. Simply put, this is about including the contributions of everyone in your organization, about valuing different points of view, and about integrating the ideas and talents of your entire team. It’s a focused effort to avoid monopolizing the conversation at your company.
There are many benefits to practicing an inclusive leadership style. These include:
If you want to practice inclusive leadership in your organization, there are a few things to keep in mind. You have to:
This is what Dean Smith knew. When he brought voices and people to the UNC basketball program that had never before been invited, he didn’t just get some great players–he opened up his possibilities for success. Players who came from different backgrounds had different styles, played for different coaches, and had different ideas about the game. Smith’s inclusivity made him a better coach, and it made him a better leader. The number of kids who played for him who went on to be coaches says enough. Smith lived the ideas of inclusive leadership, passed them on to others, and left a legacy of decency and tolerance. His inspiration changed the world.
Do you want to learn more about how to create and inclusively manage a diverse team? If you want to jumpstart your organization’s flexibility, creativity, and teamship, contact Applied Vision Works.